Firearms licensing medical process from 1st April 2016
The Home Office has announced changes to the application process for firearm and shotgun certificates so that information sharing between GPs and police is improved. The move is in response to recommendations for change to the current system submitted by Coroners, the IPCC and the medical profession. It is focussed around the detection of foreseeable or avoidable harm.
Application forms advise that the police will not only contact the applicant’s GP, asking whether he knows of any relevant medical condition or has any concerns about the issue of a firearm or shotgun certificate. The police will also ask GPs to place an encoded reminder onto the applicant’s patient record. During the validity of the firearm or shotgun certificate, the presence of the encoded reminder will enable the GP to consider notifying the police if a person’s medical health gives rise to concern regarding their possession of firearms. Upon cancellation of the certificate, for whatever reason, the police will send notification to the GP and the encoded reminder will be inactivated.
The scheme is the result of 3 years hard work by a Home Office working group made up of representatives of the police, the medical profession, the Information Commissioner’s Office and shooting organisations, BASC being at the forefront. Initially, consideration was given to the introduction of compulsory scheme whereby every applicant had to complete a self-declaration medical form and submit it to their GP together with a relevant fee. The GP in turn was expected to amend or corroborate the information, place an encoded reminder on the patient record, and forward the form to the police. BASC fiercely resisted this proposal as being wholly disproportionate.
BASC has been instrumental in developing the new process. We have worked hard in supporting Essex Police who ran a pilot of the scheme. This produced meaningful data to the working group. It showed that GPs needed to be consulted in fewer than 2% of applications proving without doubt that there was no case for a move towards mandatory medical testing of all applicants.
The introduction of the encoded reminder onto medical records adds a dynamic component to existing police monitoring systems and supports BASC’s case for the introduction of 10 year certificates.